As I’ve travelled around Aceh province and to some of the outlying islands I’ve come across a variety of Red Cross chapters. By and large all of the chapters in Aceh are either already in new chapter buildings or are planning to move to new chapter buildings within the next few months.
Many of the new chapter building follow a standard blueprint providing excellent work space for the staff. All of them are being funded by other Red Cross national societies including Canada, France, Japan, and others.
For those that have not moved yet their existing accommodations in city centers can best be described as extremely crowded and bordering on marginal accomodation. The new buildings are often being built outside the main city center on large plots of land allowing the chapters room to grow and provide additional services.
The chapters run the gamut from “almost empty” to very, very busy. Most are on the busy side delivering programs like avian influenza and HIV-AIDS awareness, and providing ambulance services to the local community. Some chapters also run the regional blood banks. In Tapaktuan I was asked for my blood type as they urgently needed some blood. Unfortunately my type didn’t match.
One fact that you cannot help but notice is what these dedicated people are doing with a very limited amount of money. It’s true that a great deal of money has flowed into Aceh because of the tsunami but most of this money has gone to infrastructure building like new homes for the survivors, the chapter buildings, chapter vehicles, water and sanitation projects, agriculture and fishery projects, EWS radio network, etc. Money for ongoing programs is still very much in demand.
And of course Aceh is only a small part of this vast country.
BTW – speaking of vast countries I’m visiting another island this afternoon when I travel to Simeulue on the west side of Sumatra, north of Nias, the other large island Glen and I visited.